Argentina will play for the first time since losing to Chile in the Copa América final. The Albiceleste will face off against 67th-ranked Bolivia and brand new coach Julio César Baldivieso in international friendly action in Houston. Sweet, sounds like yet another riveting international break that will leave us yearning for domestic leagues to get back underway.
Yes, all signs point to an Argentine goleada. But that doesn’t mean that this game doesn’t come with its fair share of excitement, a history of corruption, and backdrop of jail time that’s leaving fans talking about anything and everything but fútbol.
That’s right – the only reason this game is being played is because of a signature from currently incarcerated ex-president of the Federación Boliviana de Fútbol, Carlos Chávez. Amidst chaos, attempts to resolve internal difficulties, and efforts to appoint a new coach and regain access to blocked bank accounts, Chávez signed on from his cell at Palmasola Prison at Santa Cruz de la Sierra on August 4 without so much as a warning.
Roxana Pomier, Head Sports Editor for La Paz daily Página Siete, noted that the events leading up to this game are truly unheard of: “We journalists only knew about the match because it was announced by Argentine media outlets.” Nobody even knew that he signed on! Wow. FIFA corruption in broad daylight. It oozes uncontrollably in every direction.
Before Bolivia, 13 teams rejected the opportunity to play against Messi and co., including Brazil. Why? Scandal. Scandal. Scandal. Friday’s meeting in Houston, for example, is being organized by Full Group Play and Torneos y Competencias Internacional, two private enterprises involved in the ongoing investigations into FIFA corruption being carried out by the U.S. Department of Justice. Investigations into alleged bribery payments implicating the Albiceleste, private sports marketing enterprises, and others are scaring off opponents by the dozen. So, Argentina’s much-desired Superclásico de las Américas against the Canarinho has now turned into a friendly vs. Bolivia. Okay.
Argentine international and FC Barcelona mainstay Javier Mascherano had this to say to Buenos Aires radio station La Red: “Everything that’s happening isn’t doing any good for Argentine soccer. The image we’re portraying isn’t good; it’s reality. We try to do things as normally as possible.”
It’s sad to see these players forced to act as if nothing is wrong while their federation crumbles under the weight of corruption. At least Bolivia agreed to face them, regardless of the fact that the encounter was agreed upon from a jail cell. Now let’s see if this match is as exciting as the buildup.